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What is Measles?

Measles is a virus that's very contagious. Most people recover from infection, but measles can have serious complications and lead to long-term health problems. Since the widespread use of the measles vaccine, measles infection is very rare.

What are the Symptoms?

Symptoms appear 7 to 21 days after exposure to a person with measles and include:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Runny Nose
  • Drowsiness
  • Irritability
  • Red and watery eyes
  • Red rash, first on the face and then moving down the body, legs, and arms. The rash usually appears 3 to 7 days after the start of symptoms.
  • Small, red, irregular spots that develop on the inside of the cheeks, near the back teeth. Each spot will have a whitish or bluish centre. These spots are referred to as "Koplik's spots."


Is there Treatment?

There are no medications that kill the measles virus. Treatments are given to help relieve symptoms of measles. For example, Acetaminophen can reduce fever and other symptoms. DO NOT give your child ASA (Acetylsalicylic acid or Aspirin).

If you think you or your child have measles, call your health care provider or walk-in clinic before going into the office. This gives the office time to prepare for your arrival, so the infection isn't passed on to others.

How long is it contagious?

Usually about 4 days before rash appears, to 4 days after the onset of rash. Patients whose immune system is compromised may be contagious for the whole time they're ill.

What are the possible complications?

  • Diarrhea
  • Ear infections
  • Pneumonia
  • Encephalitis (an infection of the brain)
  • Blindness
  • Pregnant women may experience a miscarriage or give birth prematurely
  • Death


How do I prevent infection?

Vaccination remains the best protection against measles. To be fully protected from getting measles, you need two does of the MMR vaccine that provides protection against measles, mumps, and rubella.

Those who are at the greatest risk of measles exposure are people travelling to destinations outside of North America.

Please speak to your health care provider regarding the status of your immunization and your personal risk factors.

How Do I Stop the Spread?

If you think you have measles, call your doctor and the local Public Health Unit as soon as possible. You need to stay home and have no visitors until 4 days after the appearance of the rash.

Practice good hand hygiene, avoid sharing drinking glasses or utensils, and cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue or forearm.


Ontario Ministry of Health. (2012). Measles. Retrieved from

Public Health Agency of Canada. (2012). Measles. Retrieved from

The Hospital for Sick Children. (2010). Measles. Retrieved from

Ontario Ministry of Health. (2013). Infectious disease protocol, Appendix A: Disease –specific chapters: Measles. Retrieved from

This document is also available as a printable PDF. Measles

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